March 7, 2011

Hawaiian Parks Closed After Volcanic Eruption

Eruptions at a Hawaiian volcano have forced officials to close off part of a national park to visitors while geologists monitor eruptions and other seismic activity in the area.

According to the Daily Mail, US Geological Survey (USGS) scientists working at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) have reported "a fountain of fire" at the Kilauea Volcano. The volcano in question is located near Napau Crater in Hawaii County, and began erupting Saturday afternoon.

"That event was nearly simultaneous to a floor collapse at the Pu'u 'O'o Crater that happened just after 2 p.m. Saturday," Daily Mail reporters said, and HVO chief scientist Jim Kauahikaua told the newspaper that the Kilauea event "is remarkably similar to a 1997 eruption in and near Napau Crater, which lasted less than 24 hours."

As a result, a volcano alert warning has been issued, as well as a "code red" for all aircraft in the area, and the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park's Chain of Crater Road and both the coastal and east rift campsites have been closed to all visitors, according to various media reports.

According to Reuters, on Sunday a fissure at the volcano had sent lava "spewing 65 feet in the air"¦ No homes were threatened and no campers were injured, said park rangers, but they cautioned visitors to still keep their distance from the volcano."

"Kilauea has been in constant eruption for 28 years," they added, "but geologist Janet Babb of the U.S. Geological Survey said this weekend's activity indicates 'new episodes in eruptions and further unknowns.'"

Sunday's events came one day after one of the volcano's crater floors, known as Pu'u 'O'o, collapsed 370 feet, leading to a reported 150 small earthquakes in the volcanic area and opening the fissure on the eastern side of the volcano, officials from the USGS told Reuters.

KITV, an ABC affiliate out of Honolulu, reported on their website that as of late Sunday, the eruptions had begun to quiet. However, they said the area was still dangerous, as "areas near the vent could erupt or collapse without warning, posing a threat to visitors or hikers to the area," and that "potentially lethal concentrations of sulphur dioxide gas could also be present within half a mile of vent areas."


Image Caption: Ash cloud rising from Pu'u 'O'o as crater floor collapses due to magma withdrawal. Incandescent rubble can be seen crumbling and rolling down the scarp. The east rim of Pu'u 'O'o is in the foreground.


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